Gregory Polanco went 4-for-4 with a pair of RBI doubles and threw out a runner at the plate, and the Pirates pitchers kept the Brewers in the yard for a 4-2 win, kicking off a key series for the Bucs on Monday night at PNC Park.
The Pirates pulled to within six games of the National League Central-leading Brewers.
Chad Kuhl had a good enough start, riding his fastballs for seven strikeouts. The Pirates fell behind, 2-0, on two tough-luck runs.
Travis Shaw, who had reached on an infield single in the second inning, moved to second on a wild pitch — it looked more like a passed ball, if you’re concerned about that; it just sort of got away from Francisco Cervelli. Orlando Arcia then chipped a two-out single into center, scoring Shaw for an early Milwaukee lead.
Shaw doubled to lead off the fourth, and moved to third on a fly to right. With one out, Stephen Vogt hit a grounder to first; Josh Bell had a play at home, but threw high and Shaw slid in with another run.
The Pirates tied it in the fifth. Jose Osuna led off with a single, then Polanco doubled to center to score him. Polanco moved to third on a wild Arcia throw on the play, then scored on a Jordy Mercer sacrifice fly. The Pirates then got three straight one-out singles, but Joey Cora inexplicably sent Kuhl home from second on a Cervelli’s single to the strong-armed Domingo Santana in right, with Andrew McCutchen on deck. Kuhl collided violently with Vogt, but was easily out. Vogt lay on the ground for some time and left the game — the Brewers say it was Vogt’s left knee and neck. Kuhl took the blow to his left shoulder and stayed in the game.
With runners on second and third, the Brewers intentionally walked McCutchen and replaced starter Brent Suter with former Pirate Rob Scahill, who struck out David Freese looking.
The Bucs took the lead in the sixth with doubles by Josh Bell and Polanco off of Josh Hader. They got an insurance run in the eighth with three straight singles by Polanco, Mercer and Max Moroff off of Tyler Webb, who just missed out on a bullpen spot with the Pirates out of spring training as a Rule 5 pick.
Kuhl lasted 5 2-3 innings. With the seven strikeouts, he allowed three walks and four hits. He left with two on in the sixth. Daniel Hudson came on to face pinch hitter Jesus Aguilar, who cracked a hit to right, but Polanco made a strong, accurate throw to get the new catcher Manny Pina at the plate for the third out, keeping the score tied at 2 and allowing the Pirates to go ahead in the bottom of the inning.
Tony Watson loaded the bases in the seventh, but got out of it with a Pina comebacker. Juan Nicasio got two outs in the eighth and, with one on, Felipe Rivero came on to face the top of the Brewers batting order. Arcia stole second and third during the at-bat, but Jonathan Villar grounded out to end the inning, and Rivero set the Brewers down 1-2-3 in the ninth, catching Shaw looking for the final out.
Polanco was the key for the Pirates, with two runs and two RBIs to go with his four hits. Cervelli was 2-for-5. I even may have convinced a buddy Moroff should stay on the roster when he got the single in his only at-bat.
The Pirates have won 8 of 10. We’ll all be deciding whether they’re roping us back in this week. They’ll send Ivan Nova against Junior Guerra, who is coming off the disabled list, for the second game of the big four-game series on Tuesday.